Bok individuals can inspire

Pat Lambie, Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Francois Venter should give the Springboks a reason to smile in the one-off game against the Barbarians at Wembley on Saturday, writes JON CARDINELLI in London.

What is the point of the Barbarians? This question has been asked in the buildup to every Barbarians clash in the professional era.

It’s the wrong question. What is the point of a Barbarians match before the southern hemisphere superpowers face the northern nations in November? That is the question that should be asked.

Why now, while every international superstar is tied to their respective teams? Why not in December after the north versus south Tests have concluded and all of rugby’s galacticos are available for a stint in a de facto Dream Team?

The Barbarians side selected for the coming clash with the Boks lacks that superstar quality. And really, that shouldn’t come as a surprise given it’s made up of Australian, New Zealand and South African players who aren’t good enough to represent the Wallabies, All Blacks, or Boks this November.

Not that the Boks have a full-strength squad. As many as 19 players have already been ruled out for this tour. A further 12 are not available for the game against the Barbarians as they are on duty for their respective clubs in England, France and Japan.

So, what can be read into the game at Wembley this Saturday?

While it won’t be the all-star affair we’ve witnessed in recent times, it will give us an insight into where the Boks stand ahead of their must-win clash against England on 12 November. It will also provide a few uncapped players with a chance to showcase their skills as the Boks look to build for the 2017 Test season and for the 2019 World Cup.

Expectations should be tempered. There isn’t one combination in the Bok XV that has started at international level. And after a nightmare season that has seen the Boks losing to Ireland at home, Argentina away, and by a record 42 points to New Zealand on South African soil, few will bank on this South African side setting the world alight, Guy Fawkes Day or not.

The Boks are fortunate that they are up against a makeshift side, and an average one at that. While Robbie Deans is a heavyweight coach, having led the Crusaders to five Super Rugby titles in his heyday, he has not had a great deal of time to work with this group of players.

Seta Tamanivalu has the potential to ask questions of the Bok midfield defence, and Taqele Naiyaravoro could be difficult to stop if he receives the ball out wide (ask the Stormers’ Cheslin Kolbe). But just how proficient will the Barbarians be at the set pieces and breakdowns?

The Bok side selected for this match may not boast much experience, but they are taking this game seriously. Coach Allister Coetzee confirmed on Thursday that the Boks need to win this match in order to build some momentum ahead of the next game against England. It makes sense when one considers that the Bok have lost three of their last four matches.

Expect to see a hungry and determined Bok side at Wembley this Saturday. They may want for synergy, but this group of individuals will be determined to prove a point.

The Boks will play with more structure and purpose this weekend. The Barbarians, by contrast, will look to express themselves and entertain. That will play into a more pragmatic Bok team’s hands.

Pat Lambie will have a key role to play, both as captain and flyhalf. He needs to ensure that the Boks win this mattch and that they begin their tour on a positive note.

Most will be excited about the centre combination for this particular fixture. Rohan Janse van Rensburg should have been selected for the Rugby Championship squad. The Boks lacked a No 12 who has the ability to boss the gainline battle. The Lions man can provide go-forward, and has proved himself to be a fine finisher too.

The No 13 position has been a problem ever since Jaque Fourie vacated it in late 2013. Jean de Villiers did a job there in 2014 and then Jesse Kriel was asked to man that channel in 2015. Lionel Mapoe and Kriel have disappointed in that position this season, and many are hoping that Francois Venter will prove a better alternative.

Kriel has been shifted to fullback for this fixture. It’s an interesting selection given Ruan Combrinck is back in the mix. The Boks' 1995 World Cup-winner André Joubert recently told SA Rugby magazine that Combrinck deserves an extended run at No 15, such is the player's skill under the high ball and on the counter-attack.

Bulls winger Jamba Ulengo was a force on attack in the Super Rugby and Currie Cup tournaments, as was Sergeal Petersen. However, it remains to be seen if the pair can handle the pressure of international rugby.

The Boks should win this Saturday against a mediocre Barbarians side. If anything can be read into this game, it’s the performances of the individuals and what they can offer this South African side going forward.

Barbarians – 15 Melani Nanai (Blues), 14 Matt Faddes (Highlanders), 13 Seta Tamanivalu (Crusaders), 12 Richard Buckman (Highlanders), 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro (Waratahs), 10 Robert du Preez (Stormers), 9 Andy Ellis (Crusaders, c), 8 Luke Whitelock (Highlanders), 7 Jordan Taufua (Crusaders), 6 Brad Shields (Hurricanes), 5 Michael Fatialofa (Hurricanes), 4 Martin Muller (Lions), 3 Paddy Ryan (Waratahs), 2 Akker van der Merwe (Lions), 1 Reggie Goodes (Hurricanes).
Subs: 16 Andrew Ready (Reds), 17 Schalk van der Merwe (Montpellier), 18 Toby Smith (Rebels), 19 Sam Carter (Brumbies), 20 Ruan Ackermann (Lions), 21 Nic Stirzaker (Rebels), 22 Richard Mo’unga (Crusaders), 23 Luke Morahan (Force).

Springbok XV – 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Pat Lambie (c), 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 19 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Eben Etzebeth, 20 Jean-Luc du Preez, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Ruan Combrinck.

Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images

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Jon Cardinelli